• Contact us!

  • Follow us on Facebook

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,062 other followers

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

    Jo on Women Composers – A Reflection…
    Bionica (@bionicaban… on Women Composers – A Reflection…
    Mary Cooke on Sol-Fa – Singing Through…
    Maria R Thomas on The Piano Music of Chopin – To…
    kaptonok on The Piano Music of Chopin – To…
  • Archives

Creativity in Education

Earlier this month, the Durham Commission published its final report following a two-year review of Creativity in Education.  The Commission is a collaboration between Arts Council England and Durham University. It aims to identify ways in which creativity, and specifically creative thinking, can play a larger part in the lives of young people from birth to the age of 19, both within and beyond the current education system.

The Commission brought together a diverse group from Education and the Creative Industries to act as Commissioners, chaired by Sir Nicholas Serota, CH, Chair of Arts Council England.

It gathered a wide range of evidence from various sources including:

  • A survey of over 1,000 stakeholders from business, education and the arts
  • A survey of headteachers and governors across the country
  • Meetings with stakeholders
  • A review of previous reports and initiatives into creativity and education
  • One-to-one interviews with the Commissioners

This research has enabled the Commission to explore key questions about the relationship between creativity and education such as, “How can creativity be recognised?” “What are the challenges and opportunities when embedding creativity in schools, and in the workplace?” And, “Who should be responsible for promoting creativity across the country?”

Key Definitions

Key Recommendations

The Commission recommends that a national network of Creativity Collaboratives should be established to allow schools to collaborate in establishing and sustaining the circumstances and environment required for nurturing creativity in the classroom, across the curriculum

1: Establishing Creativity Collaboratives

A key recommendation is that a three-year pilot of nine Creativity Collaboratives should be established in each of the DfE regions with funding from a consortium including DfE, Arts Council and educational trusts, with a view to exploring additional funding from partnerships between DfE, industry and commerce

2: Barriers to teaching for creativity

The Commission recommends that Government, Ofqual and the awarding bodies work together to consider the role of examinations and how scholarship and craftmanship are recognised and rewarded in assessment frameworks.

3: Recognising the value of creativity

The Commission identified that schools who have successfully established and sustained conditions where creativity is nurtured should be championed and encouraged. The Commission suggests that success should be recognised in the Ofsted inspection process and that Ofsted should share good practice case studies of teaching for creativity in a range of subjects and across phases.

The Commission also suggest that Ofsted should also continue to refine the inspection framework to further decrease incentives to ‘teach to the mark’ and that there is more clarity that the inspection process is looking for “teaching for scholarship and craftsmanship, not merely exam-passing.”

Throughout our research, the words most frequently associated with the exercise of creativity were imagination, freedom, expression, collaboration, and problem solving. The research findings also highlighted the importance of curiosity, perseverance and resilience.

4 & 5: Evaluating the impact of creativity

The Commission highlights the benefits to schools of taking part in PISA 2021 evaluation of creating thinking, and recommends that the DfE should support English schools’ participation in this in order to influence and shape future use of the framework.

The Commission also recommends a role for Higher Education institutions, in conjunction with the DfE, to work with the Creativity Collaboratives to “develop research-informed practice to evaluate creativity, looking at how creativity and creative thinking can be identified across disciplines, and how its impact can be measured.”

There need be no conflict between knowledge and creativity in our education system. Indeed, the opposite is the case – creativity is founded on deep understanding. Every meaningful creative breakthrough in human history has been made by people with deep expertise, immersing themselves in the practices and problems of the field and finding new ways to see, act or behave.

6: Digital technologies, creativity and education

The Commission stresses that the English education system should support young people to engage creatively and critically with the digital technology that is now a substantial part of their everyday lives. Suggestions including additional funding from the DfE for training for school teachers in digital literacy and digital creativity, with time and resource committed to it. The Commission also suggests NESTA play a key role, by managing a pilot programme working with a mix of education, business and the cultural sector to explore how digital education in schools can help develop the creative digital skills most in demand by employers.

7: Creativity and the arts in schools

The Commission states its belief that “Arts and culture should be an essential part of the education of every child.” Its recommendations to achieve this include a funded National Plan for Cultural Education to be established by the DfE which will ensure all children access cultural opportunities in school alongside the new Plans for Music Education and Sport.

The Commission also suggests that the DfE should require schools to offer a full national curriculum at all key stages, but in particular at KS3 until the end of year 9 which would include the arts as a substantive part of the curriculum, not as an add-on.

Another recommendation is that the Artsmark scheme awarded by Arts Council England should be reviewed by ACE to make sure the value of creativity, arts and culture in schools is recognised. This should be achieved through ACE working with the DfE to evaluate the current provision of professional development opportunities for teachers in arts subjects and for the cultural workforce and freelancers who work with schools.

8: Creative beginnings: pre-school and the early years curriculum

The Commission identifies the importance of the purpose and place of creativity and teaching for creativity being recognised and encouraged in the early years (0-4). Recommendations include integrating creativity into the Early Learning Goals within the Early Years Foundation Stage by the DfE while establishing and funding effective training and CPD for the pre-school workforce. The Commission suggest reviewing the current Continuing Professional Development opportunities, qualifications and entry routes to the sector by 2021.

The Commission also identifies other key partners in Early Years creativity and suggests that the BBC, other media and broadcasting organisations alongside the DfE, should further develop quality early years content that encourages young children’s creativity alongside literacy and language development.

9: Creative opportunities out of school hours

The Commission also states its belief that in-school opportunities to develop creativity should be complemented by a range of opportunities to take part in creative activities outside of school hours. They recommend that Arts Council England work in partnership with youth sector organisations and social services to align and build on existing out of school provision to be creative in the arts, sciences and humanities. Routes identified include Saturday Clubs, Music Education Hubs, existing Arts Council programmes which support out of school hours activity, and the National Citizens Service.

10: Beyond school: creative opportunities and experiences in the world of work

The Commission identifies that young people need to be better prepared for the changing world of work particularly requiring the creative capacities that employers are looking for and which will enable them to be “resilient and adaptable, to pursue portfolio careers and engage in lifelong learning.” The Commission highlights that qualification frameworks should appreciate the value of creativity for the current and future workforce.

It suggests a review of the existing opportunities for developing creativity as a key capacity in emerging T level qualifications and existing Apprenticeship Standards by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.

Full report available at 

https://www.dur.ac.uk/resources/creativitycommission/DurhamReport.pdf

Composing the Future

On 1st October 2019, Sound and Music announced the findings of their National Music Educators’ Survey, Can Compose. The report, which is based on responses from over 500 educators, is the first of it’s kind to look specifically at creativity and composers.

Sound and Music believe that composing should be a core element of every child’s music education – and 97% of their respondents agreed.

One of the areas of the report is the identification of 5 key barriers (from the over 600 barriers that were reported) that prevent young people’s progression in composing:

  • Many young people lack the skills, knowledge and confidence to compose their own music
  • There are concerns about the relevance of opportunities for young people 
  • Many educators lack support and training in how to teach composing 
  • There is limited, patchy and unequal access to resources and opportunities 
  • Composing as a core part of music education is undervalued 

These are worrying findings for those of us who believe in the importance of opportunity for creativity and access to music for young people, however not a great surprise to the MWC team who see a wide range of musical opportunities for young people in schools in many areas, but speak to teachers who do not have the skills to teaching composition or do not have access to the necessary resources.

Sound and Music suggest that these findings point to the need for changes in perceptions, provision, practice and policy.

As well as identifying the barriers to young people composing, Sound and Music’s report also identifies 5 outcomes to address the barriers:

  • There should be more opportunities for young people to compose in and out of school 
  • Opportunities for young people to compose should be more relevant and diverse 
  • There should be improved provision of training, support and resources for educators, music education hubs and schools 
  • There should be improved progression pathways through better networks and signposting 
  • More value should be placed on composing

Sound and Music state:

“We want to see a world where more young people have the opportunity, skills and confidence to create their own music; where their creativity and imagination can flourish; and where the composers of the future, key to the success of many of the UK’s creative industries, are nurtured.”

This is a sentiment that we, at MWC, fully support.

Key Findings

Key findings from the report include:

97% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that creating and composing music should be a core element of music education

96%  of respondents agreed that creating and composing music enables children and young people to develop their identity and their wellbeing

97% of respondents also agreed that there should be more opportunities for students to compose their own music

Young peoples’ confidence and performance opportunities

An important point for consideration is that young people’s confidence in composing declines throughout their time in education up to the age of 16. By age of 16 and over, the confidence in composing seems to return a little, however, the number of young people participating in music education in schools at this stage is a very small proportion of all young people. One concern is that many students lack confidence in themselves as composers and worry about being judged. The report suggests this lack of confidence to experiment and make mistakes when learning to compose has its roots in a number of the issues identified throughout the survey. The report further suggests that this lack of confidence is compounded by the systemic deprioritisation of composing compared to performing.

Also highlighted in the Sound and Music report is the fact that opportunities for young people to hear their own compositions performed live are extremely limited. The research found that there is a mismatch between students composing and works being performed.

Teachers confidence and CPD

The research suggests that teachers and educators are not accessing training and Continuing Professional Development focused on composing with only 41% of respondents reporting that they had received composing-focused Continuing Professional Development (CPD) within the last 5 years. Educators seem to value to CPD with 45% of respondents agreeing that “CPD for themselves and colleagues” that be the activity that would most benefit young people. Linked to this is a lack of confidence in educators regarding assessing composing, particularly for exams. Educators’ confidence can be undermined by exam boards’ assessment methodologies, which are not always perceived to be reliable or transparent.

As educators do not always feel confident teaching composing, the report found that schools increasingly rely on external music tuition to fulfil curriculum and examination requirements, which particularly impacts composing,

The question “what would most benefit young people to compose music?”, 38% of those respondents directly involved in teaching music, and 45% of those respondents working for organisations, said that better teaching resources would help them support composing activity.  This was broken down with categories most frequently given as school facilities, equipment and space (34% of responses within this category), including the need for more technology and equipment; insufficient breakout spaces for group composing activity; and a lack of accessible instruments for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. This last point is highlighted in the finding that music educators struggle to support young people who face disabling barriers to composing and creating music.

Also identified as something that would help young people compose was access to composers. The report suggests “Providing young people with more opportunities to work alongside composers, and supporting composers in developing their skills as educators, are two important steps that educators feel the music education sector needs to take.”

Concern about the future of music in schools

A concern that MWC has raised in numerous blogs is the challenge that music as a curriculum subject is being deprioritised. In the Sound and Music report, 78% of respondents identified the deprioritisation of music as a curriculum subject or lack of time for music within the school curriculum as barriers to young people composing their own music.

Recommendations

The report goes on to identify ways to create opportunities and support young people to compose. These recommendations link to key areas:

  • Creating more opportunities for young people to compose both in and out of school
  • More relevant and diverse opportunities for young people to compose
  • An improved offering of training, support and resources for educators, music education hubs and schools
  • Clear signposting to improved progression pathways with better networks
  • A higher value to be placed on composing

To read the full report visit http://soundandmusic.org/projects/can-compose-national-music-educators-survey

Fresh Ideas for Music – Notes from ROH Bridge

Last month MWC’s Artistic Director Maria Thomas shared her thoughts from the meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education. This month she takes inspiration from the ROH Bridge’s annual conference, The Thriving Child

Maria Thomas
Maria Thomas

On the 28thJune, the ROH Bridge held their annual conference, The Thriving Child. This year, back at the Royal Opera House following the renovation of the Linbury Theatre, the conference was streamed across the country with people joining from the Lowry in Salford, West Suffolk College in Bury St Edmunds, the Midlands Art Centre in Birmingham, the Curve Theatre in Leicester and Ocean Studios in Portsmouth. 

Many speakers linked the topic of The Thriving Child to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which was agreed 30 years ago. Key to the discussion was Article 31 which states:

1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.

2. States Parties shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.”

The day began with delegates being welcomed by Alex Beard, CEO of the Royal Opera House before host for the day, Kirsty Wark took charge of proceedings. The day was split into four topics for discussion, the first being, “What affects the ability of children and young people to live, play and learn in 2019 in the UK?”.

Image: jrbelice

The first speaker, Dr Kitty Stewart, Associate Director of the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion at the London School of Economics and Political Science, gave a very clear view on what impacts young people’s ability to live, play and learn, with family income and investment in support services being key. Dr Stewart shared figures from the National Audit Office demonstrating the cuts to local authority services in England from 2010-11 to 2016-17 showing -50% cut to the Sure Start programme, -66% cut to services for young people, -41% to Arts development and support, -33% to library services and -49% to youth justice. She linked these figures to models that demonstrate the impact of these factors on children and families.

The second talk was entitled Beyond the Secret Garden and was given by Darren Chetty, a teacher, writer and researcher. Chetty raised another central issue for young people accessing the arts – the lack of diversity in children’s literature. He highlighted that 1% of children’s books have a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) main character and only 4% have any BAME characters at all. He told delegates of an experience he had as a teacher where a young BAME person in his primary class wrote about his family in a writing assignment and was told by a classmate, “Stories are about white people.” He raised the point that in education, there is often discussion of “pupil voice,” but he feels it is important to also highlight “teacher ear” to ensure educators are listening to young people. He recommended http://booksforkeeps.co.uk/ as a source for books for young people.

The final speaker in the first session was Sonia Livingstone, Professor of Social Psychology at London School of Economics and Political Science. Her discussion focussed on young people thriving online and suggested that offline, parents and teachers offer children and young people “scaffolded freedom,” giving them a chance to have freedom within a safe setting. However, she suggested that many parents and teachers feel they do not have the skills to do this online which may lead to them being restrictive in terms of access online for young people, or that young people are continually warned of the dangers online and so self-censor.

The theme for Session 2 was The lived experience of children and young people, and as is traditional at ROH Bridge conferences, we heard from young people. The first was a fabulous performance by the Palace Young Company from Watford Palace Theatre entitled, “We’re Waiting ….” which highlighted areas of concern for young people such as climate change, from advertising, social media, exams and Brexit.

The second part showcased the good practice of Gifted Young Generation based at The Grand Healthy Living Centre in Gravesend. We heard from four young people aged 16 – 18 who run a podcast called Thrive. The teenagers discussed how support from The Grand had given them a voice and helped them to grow in confidence.

The last session before lunch was a general discussion, hosted by Kirsty Wark, about how educators can support young people to thrive.

After lunch, Session 3 focussed on the question, “What role do the arts, creativity and cultural learning play in enabling children and young people to thrive?” The first talk was by Baroness Kidron, Commissioner of the Durham Commission on Creativity and Education, Filmmaker, member of the House of Lords and children’s rights campaigner. She shared some of the findings from the recent Durham Commission on Creativity and Education which will be published in September.

The second section was a discussion between Adam Annand, Associate Director and Speech Bubble lead at London Bubble and Dominic Wyse, Professor of Early Childhood and Primary Education at University College London. Adam discussed the work London Bubble do through their Speech Bubbles work, a national primary school drama intervention supporting children’s communication skills, confidence and wellbeing. For more on this watch the video below:

Adam raised the link between how feel and how we communicate. Professor Wyse suggested that it would be good to take the National Curriculum for Music and replace the word “Music” with “English” to move to a more playful approach to teaching language. The speakers discussed the importance of evaluating work to prove its worth and access funding, with Adam leaving delegates with the question: “How do we evaluate the twinkle in the eye of the child?”

The final speaker in Session 3 was Professor Pat Thomson, Professor of Education at University of Nottingham & Convenor of the Centre for Research in Arts, Creativity and Literacy. Her talk was entitled Tracking Arts Learning and Engagement: Arts education for cultural citizenship, and she shared her research in to how teachers use their experience of working with the Royal Shakespeare Company and Tate in developing classroom pedagogies.

The research worked with 30 schools and 1,442 students and highlighted that their findings found the importance of school support in introducing young people to the Arts. The project also showed that students who had worked with these organisations through schools were more likely to become audiences and more likely to become participants in the Arts than the national average. Professor Thomson also highlighted that all children and young people are active cultural citizens, and she likened this to children and young people coming to schools with individual cultural back-packs which hold all their previous cultural experiences. She suggested that educators need to help young people unpack these bags and share these experiences. She also highlighted the importance of “Arts Broker Teachers” who embody what it means to be culturally involved, who talk to their students about their cultural life outside school. She also stressed that her research showed a clear mutual respect between cultural organisations and teachers which enabled them to work together.

In the audience discussion, Janet Robertson, CEO of Action for Children’s Arts, introduced the Arts Back-pack which is currently in a feasibility stage. This is a project which, if implemented, will ensure that every primary school child in the UK has at least five cultural experiences in the school year. It has been proposed to government ministers, representatives from Arts Council England and key individuals within the sector as a way to combat the diminishing role that arts subjects play in schools across the UK. For more information see https://www.childrensarts.org.uk

Having started the day with depressing figures on the cuts to funding for young people, the formal part of day ended on a high with powerful Keynote speaker Akala, Hip hop artist, historian, writer and social entrepreneur sharing his experiences and lessons learnt through these life experiences. He particularly stressed the cost of expulsion to society. His advice to educators is:

  • Be brutally honest with young people
  • Be conscious of your own bias
  • Realise your brilliance … And impact

As is always key at these events, evaluation was needed at the end of day, but the ROH Bridge team gave delegates the chance to approach this slightly differently with young people hosting a number of areas for delegates to reflect on their experience including the “Washing line of Fresh Ideas.”

For more discussion from the conference see #ThrivingChild on Twitter


If you would like to know more about the Music Workshop Company or to book one of our bespoke creative experiences, contact Maria today.

Music Workshop Company Info

Women’s Hour Music Power List 2018

Friday 28th September was BBC Music Day. Women’s Hour celebrated by revealing their list of the 40 most influential women in music.

Three out of the top five women are top selling artists, with Adele at #4, Taylor Swift at #2 and Beyonce at #1, but the list also celebrates the contributions of women who work behind the scenes.

Adele (Image: Christopher Macsurak)

At #3 is Vanessa Reed, Chief Executive of the PRS Foundation. This year, Reed has targeted a total of 100 festivals to sign up to PRS’s Keychange initiative, aiming to create a 50:50 gender balance at music festivals and conferences by 2022.

Stacey Tang, Managing Director of RCA UK, is at #5. In 2017 she oversaw six UK #1 albums. Tang is also a founding member of The Digital Future Council, an organisation set up to bridge the gap between media, advertising and technology.

Numbers six to 10 feature a mix of well known names, including some perhaps only known in the musical world. Prominent women include conductor Marin Alsop at #8. Alsop is the only woman to have conducted the Last Night of the Proms – a role she has undertaken on two occasions.

Chi-chi Nwanoku, Double Bassist and Founder of the Chineke! Foundation is at #9. Read more about the Foundation in our blog, Chineke! Leading by Example.

At #6, 7 and 9 are women who are leaders behind the scenes. At #6 is Gillian Moore, Director of Music at Southbank Centre. Gillian has previously been head of Contemporary Culture and Classical Music at Southbank Centre, and her current role to brings these areas together. She is known for championing women musicians.

At #7 is Rebecca Allen, President of Decca Records. She is one of a very few female presidents at major record labels in this country and has overseen the signing of successful artists such as Alfie Boe Ennio Morricone and Sheku Kanneh-Mason.

Success in music events was celebrated at #10 with Maggie Crowe, Director of Events and Charities at the British Phonographic Industry, who oversees the BRIT awards and The Mercury Prize. Crowe is also Administrator of the BRIT Trust and a member of the board at the BRIT school.

Nicola Benedetti (Image: Allanbeavis)

The world of music education was championed in the list with Nicola Benedetti, violinist and educationalist at #18. Benedetti was recognised for her passion for music education and the work she has done to support young talent nationally, regionally and internationally.

At #21, is Kathryn McDowell, Managing Director at the London Symphony Orchestra who, alongside her work on the Artistic Programming of the orchestra, has developed the LSO Live label, as well as extending the orchestra’s well known and respected education and community work.

The ISM’s Chief Executive, Deborah Annetts is at #33. Annetts’ campaigning includes promoting the importance of music through education through the EBacc campaign. Read more about the ISM EBacc campaign in our blog post.

(Image: Knight Foundation)

Composer and Educator Issie Barratt is at #38, celebrating her commitment to music education. Barratt founded, and is a Fellow of, the Jazz faculty at Trinity Laban and performs, composes and has created a record label, as well as being a trustee for the Women’s Jazz Archive.

The music world is traditionally seen as male dominated, with men often predominantly taking the roles of top-selling artist, composer, conductor and executive. But the landscape is changing.  It’s important to celebrate the work of these inspirational women in order to encourage future generations of young women to see how they can play a vital role as performers, conductors, educators and managers.

Links:

The top 10 women in music:  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/entertainment-arts-45677295/bbc-woman-s-hour-publishes-music-power-list

Woman’s Hour (playback): https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b39v9r


The Inspirational Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, died in August 2018 at the age of 76. With her death, among the musical tributes, came a rush of tabloid-style headlines about the notoriously private singer.

Franklin was a phenomenal artist with an unquestionable place in music history. The first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (in 1987), ranked number 1 on VH1’s Greatest Women of Rock N Roll, she sang at a memorial service for Martin Luther King Jr. (1968), at pre-inauguration concerts for Presidents Jimmy Carter (1977) and Bill Clinton (1993), and the inauguration of America’s first black President, Barak Obama (in 2009). In 1986, her voice was designated a “Natural Resource” by the State of Michigan. In 2008, she was voted the greatest singer of the rock era in a Rolling Stone magazine poll. During the 1988 Grammy Awards show, she stepped in for Luciano Pavarotti who was unable to appear due to ill health, performing the aria Nessun Dorma in his place. She went on to perform this aria several more times, the last of which was in Philadelphia for Pope Francis.

In a career spanning six and a half decades she placed more than 100 singles in the billboard charts, including 17 top 10 pop singles and 20 no. 1 hits on the R&B chart, a number matched only by Stevie Wonder and not yet bettered by any artist. Already a successful R&B/Soul singer in the 1960s, her 1967 recording of Otis Redding’s song RESPECT from the album I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, which spent 2 weeks at number 1 in the billboard chart, won her international acclaim and mainstream recognition.

She received 18 competitive Grammy awards, has five recordings in the Grammy Hall of Fame (Respect, Amazing Grace, Chain Of Fools, A Natural Woman (You Make Me Feel Like), and I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You) and was given a lifetime achievement award in 1994.

One remarkable aspect of Franklin’s career was the turbulent life that prompted the probing headlines. She wasn’t a textbook success story or a kid with all the opportunities. Born in Memphis, Tennessee and brought up in Detroit, Michigan, her childhood was full of challenges. Her parents separated when she was just 6 and her mother (who was a gospel singer and pianist) died at the age of just 34 of a heart attack when Franklin was only 10 years old. Her first marriage was abusive and her life was plagued by rumours of addiction – to alcohol (which Franklin denied) and cannabis – and by health problems associated with her weight.

In many ways, her upbringing and aspirations were reflective of the times. Part of a generation of black baby boomers who were still very church-orientated, she was brought up by her father, a minister of national influence who presided over New Bethel Baptist Church. Although she never learned to read music, as a young teenager, Franklin performed with her father on his gospel programmes in major cities and was recognised as a vocal prodigy.

On June 10, 1979, her father was shot at home at point blank range by a burglar when she was on stage in Las Vegas. For the five years until his death, he required 24-hour care.

Franklin made the move to secular music at the age of 18. With the support of her father, to whom she confided she wanted to follow in the footsteps of Sam Cooke and record pop songs, she moved to New York City, where she was signed by Colombia Records executive John Hammond. Hammond had previously signed Billie Holiday and Count Basie. She released her first single under Colombia at the age of 18, and although it reached number 10 on the Hot Rhythm and Blues Sellers chart and was met with critical acclaim, a lack of focus in her output at meant she initially struggled to find the success for which she was destined.

However, in 1966 when her contract with Colombia expired, she switched to Atlantic Records where, rather than determining her artistic direction, her producer Jerry Wexler gave her the freedom to explore her own musical identity.

Franklin returned to her gospel roots, exemplified by constantly improvisatory, airborne vocals, and I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You (Atlantic, 1967) was her first million-seller. Her first single with Atlantic, RESPECT, became an anthem for personal, racial and sexual freedom in line with her own values.

Franklin was immersed throughout her life in the struggle for civil rights and women’s rights. She provided money for civil rights groups and performed at benefits and protests. In 1970, when political activist, author and academic, Angel Davis was jailed, Franklin told Jet:

Angela Davis must go free, … Black people will be free. I’ve been locked up (for disturbing the peace in Detroit) and I know you got to disturb the peace when you can’t get no peace. Jail is hell to be in. I’m going to see her free if there is any justice in our courts, not because I believe in communism, but because she’s a Black woman and she wants freedom for Black people.

Franklin was a strong advocate for Native American rights. Quietly and without publicity, she supported the struggles of indigenous people worldwide and numerous movements that supported Native American and First Nation cultural rights. She also donated heavily to churches and food banks in the Detroit area.

[Photo by Pete Souza]

Franklin gave her last full concert at the Ravinia Festival on September 3, 2017, and her final performance was at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City during Elton John’s 25th anniversary gala for the Elton John AIDS Foundation on November 7, 2017. She died of advanced pancreatic cancer.

She is known for significant contributions to African-American pride and ‘female self-assertion,’ and reached the pinnacle of her profession at a time when black women were fighting to be seen and heard on their own terms.

It is impossible to give a true representation of such an expansive life and career in such a short space – she made hit after hit, possessed a phenomenal voice, presence and ability to persevere and excel against the odds. She remains quite simply a consummate artist: Both iconic – in black American culture, in mainstream culture and in music worldwide – and deeply human.

Call for Participants: Hackney Carnival Collective

Two Hackney-based theatre companies are joining forces for the second year running this summer to host a free carnival-themed drama project for young adults with learning disabilities or autism.

Hackney Shed and Access All Areas are each hosting workshops across the summer, with participants then having a chance to perform at the borough’s carnival in September.

The Hackney Carnival Collective, which is aimed at Hackney-based 16 to 25-year-olds, proved a huge hit last year.

Photo credit: Martyna Glowacka

This year’s participants will work on street performance, dance and costumes in collaboration with professional artists, including learning disabled and autistic artists from Access All Areas’ performance company.

Hackney Shed’s artistic director Vicki Hambley said:

We are very excited to work with Access All Areas again on the Carnival Collective this summer. The Hackney Carnival is a great tradition and we are looking forward to building up our own tradition of collaborating together.

Hambley said the project allows young people to get together “in a safe space to be creative and build friendships,” adding, “The Hackney Carnival is the perfect way to celebrate the culmination of the work they have created over the summer.”

Hackney Shed hosted the first of the project’s two workshops on 25-27 July with great success, and Access All Areas will host the second workshop on 28-31 August at Chats Palace in Homerton.

Places are still available on this workshop, which will lead to participants having the opportunity to perform at the Hackney Carnival on Sunday 9 September.

Photo credit: Alex Covell

Helen Bryer, Director of Take Part and Train at Access All Areas said:

We’re delighted to be collaborating with Hackney Shed for the second year running.

As two theatre companies that are embedded in the local community, Hackney Carnival gives us the opportunity to showcase our work to the borough’s wider audiences, and to set a positive example both of and for young people with learning disabilities and autism on a wider stage. As a company making urban, disruptive performance we are proud to be a part of this huge celebration of Hackney.

The Carnival Collective is one of our community theatre projects, and it is a joy to be able to meet and collaborate with new participants who may not have made their own performance work before. We’ll be using street performance, physical theatre and costume to bring out the unique voices and personalities of these young performers. We can’t wait to show the people of Hackney what they can do.

To book a place for Access All Areas’ workshop, please contact alex@accessallareastheatre.org or call 0207 613 6445

The performance can be seen at Hackney Carnival on Sunday 9 September.

For more information about Access All Areas’ wider work with learning disabled and autistic artists, please visit www.accessallareastheatre.org

Photo credit: Martyna Glowacka


If you have a project you would like to share in the Music Workshop Company’s guest blog, or if you would like to know more about the Music Workshop Company and our workshop offering, contact us today either at 0844 583 8131 or using the form below: 

Inclusive Dance Company Changing Lives in Hertforshire

Silverbirch Dance is an inclusive dance company based in Hertfordshire, UK. Founded in 2002 by Suzie Birchwood under the premise that anybody and ‘any body’ can dance, the company aims, through a programme of performances, workshops and projects for schools, colleges, local authorities and community groups, to enable people to explore the creative possibilities in their own bodies and imaginations in a safe and supportive environment.

The Music Workshop Company spoke to David Nurse, Artistic Director of Silverbirch Dance, about the inspiration behind the company, and current projects and opportunities for participants in and around Hertfordshire.

“At Silverbirch we believe that watching performances and taking part in workshops led both by disabled people with and people without disabilities raises expectations of what disabled people can achieve and contribute. By creating safe social spaces where dancers can build their self-confidence and be supported to stay healthy, active and engaged, we aim to show that disability is not a barrier to a fulfilled and happy life, and through this, challenge perceptions of disabled people.

My own motivation for running the company lies firstly in the development of my practice. I have been involved in running companies before, spending 12 years as Youth Group Director for Magpie Dance, and I wanted to take on responsibility for the whole of a company’s work. Because Silverbirch provides such a wide range of offerings in various settings this is a chance for me to build on my previous experience, enhancing the work of the company and the skills of our participants and facilitators.

I am particularly keen to have disabled artists in an authorial and leadership role so that they are doing the work rather than having the work ‘done to them’. The company members at Silverbirch are incredibly dance-literate: Amazing dancers, performers and communicators. I want to continue to develop these skills so that they can be recognised as dance leaders and facilitators by the wider world.

Through inclusive creative dance projects I have seen (and heard) people literally find a voice. One young man who was an elective mute developed his non-verbal communication skills and confidence to such an extent that after an end of term performance he stood up and gave a 5 minute speech about the group and what we had been doing: Something he had never done before. After this it became quite hard to get him NOT to make a speech after each performance!

One member of the company at Silverbirch has developed her self-confidence through our inclusive sessions and mentoring on dealing with situations and our responses to those situations. Six months ago, any new situation, ‘surprise’, or sense of tension would reduce her to tears. Her participation at Silverbirch means she is now able to take a moment, calm herself and continue to contribute to the group.

At a recent performance in a primary school where we performed for the whole school, the pupils were captivated and intrigued by the company. One girl who was wearing hearing aids leapt up at the end to tell one of our dancers, ‘You’re amazing!’ I think the performance and workshop were particularly impactful for a number of students who had impairments. There was one boy who seemed to have difficulty focusing and joining in with his peers. In our workshop he was gradually drawn into the group until he was participating without his support worker, fully engaged, focused and included.

Projects at Silverbirch

Silverbirch Dance currently deliver a number of diverse and dynamic projects and creative opportunities:

Silverbirch Dance

This is our graduate performance company which rehearses once a week and gives performances around Hertfordshire and the surrounding area. Through weekly technique and creative workshops Silverbirch Dance explore the many and various ways that the human body can be used as an expressive instrument.

We aim to develop company members’ skills so that they can take a leadership role in the creative life of their community as performers and facilitators.

The company’s current touring production, ‘HOP!’ is a vibrant and dynamic exploration of a Harlem nightclub, created by Suzie Birchwood and the company and performed to specially commissioned music. The show’s characters reflect the first inclusive club in America where all were welcomed and included regardless of their age, gender, abilities, sexuality, race or creed.

Each performance of ‘HOP!’ is paired with an inclusive creative dance workshop led by company members and based on the characters and themes within the piece.

DanceBase

These are our regular term time creative inclusive dance sessions for young people and adults where all are included and encouraged to explore their creativity in an inclusive, accessible and safe space.

DanceBase sessions are delivered by our amazing team of inclusive dance facilitators, assisted by members of the Silverbirch Dance company.

We currently run an Adult Group (16+) in Ware, Hertfordshire on Tuesday evenings during term time. We also run a Youth Group (under 16) and Adult Group (16+) in Watford, Hertfordshire on Wednesday evenings.

UV

This our regular club night, which is run by a management team of young disabled and non-disabled people and adults for their peers. The team make the creative decisions and carry out marketing for each night. The management team also undertake most of the fundraising for UV events. Recent themes include ‘The Roaring ‘20s’ and ‘Bhangra.’ UV aims to deliver a true clubbing experience with professional DJs and current music in a safe and inclusive environment.

Silverbirch Dance also deliver weekly inclusive dance sessions in local SEN schools and we are always open to new partnership possibilities with other schools and organisations. We have recently worked in collaboration with Hertfordshire Youth Orchestra and Hertfordshire County Youth Dance Company on a performance of excerpts from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. This was premiered at The Weston Auditorium. We continue to work in collaboration with these and other groups and Hertfordshire Music Service.

Throughout my career, I have always wanted to challenge stereotypes based on a person’s perceived abilities, gender, ethnic origin, age, nationality or sexual orientation.

I also believe that diversity enhances the creative possibilities of any group.

I believe diverse groups come together to create a total greater than the sum of their parts. We all have different abilities and sharing the workload enables us to achieve more than we ever can by working individually.”

For more details on the amazing projects at Silverbirch Dance and to find out what the company could do for you please check out the website: silverbirchdance.com

To book a ‘HOP!’ performance and workshop package for just £75 pounds please call the office on 07902042469 or email Artistic Director David Nurse david@artsbase.org.uk.

You can contact David Nurse by email at david@artsbase.org.uk or telephone the office on 07902042469


If you are interested in contacting the Music Workshop Company about booking a workshop or would like to feature your project on our next guest blog, contact us today.

 

 

 

Debussy: Trailblazing Modernity

Achille Claude Debussy, or Claude Debussy as he’s usually known, was, along with Maurice Ravel, the most prominent French composer of classical music associated with Impressionism. Born in 1862, he died on March 25th, 1918, making this year the centenary of his death. His music is still incredibly popular, and ‘centenary’ recordings are trending in the classical music charts.

Impressionism is a term used to describe both music and art. In music, it indicates works that convey emotion, suggestion and atmosphere, using timbre (texture) harmony (colour) and orchestration (palette) in the same way that impressionist painters such as Monet and Renoir built an overall impression rather than a detailed realistic image.

Children on the Beach at Guernsey, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1883

These styles were in keeping with the literary fashion of the time: Symbolism. Symbolism was a reaction against the grittiness of realism. It featured metaphor and suggestion. Individual objects were given symbolic meanings with the intention of representing ‘absolute truths’ that could only be described indirectly.

Debussy rejected the term ‘Impressionism’ when applied to his music. In a letter of 1908 he wrote,

I am trying to do ‘something different’ — in a way realities — what the imbeciles call ‘impressionism’ is a term which is as poorly used as possible, particularly by art critics.

In fact, the composer spent a lot of time, and shared many ideals with symbolist writers, including Mallarmé and Pierre Loüys. Although the label of ‘impressionist’ that was given him in a less than flattering way after he submitted Le Printemps to the Conseil de Art (it was refused by the Académie’s Secretary in a letter warning him about “impressionism, the most dangerous enemy of artistic truth”), he adhered more to symbolism than impressionism, and transcended both.

Debussy at the Piano

Debussy’s musical language marked the era of modernity. His focus was constantly on originality – a genuine trailblazer in the world of music. Experimental from the outset, he was also a brilliant pianist and a fantastic sight-reader. While he applied the techniques of the old masters, he pushed these to their limits. He used whole tone scales, pentatonicism, and unresolved dissonances by removing them from the tonal framework.

Travels to Russia in his youth had interested in non-European music. These trips possibly also prepared him for the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1889, where he discovered the Japanese gamelan and Annamite theatre. By integrating these elements into his language, he created a sound that was previously unknown and was to spark modernism in music.

Russian music itself made a strong impression. Influences from late nineteenth-century Russian music, including that of Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, and Borodin can be heard in Debussy. There was increasing cross-cultural flow during the period of the Franco-Russian alliance in the late nineteenth century, and Russian music was also performed and popularised by musicians including Liszt and Saint-Saëns.

As winner of the 1884 Prix de Rome with his composition L’enfant prodigue, Debussy had received a scholarship to the Académie des Beaux-Arts. This included a four-year residence at the Villa Medici, the French Academy in Rome, to further his studies (1885–1887).

In his letters to Marie-Blanche Vasnier (a singer with whom he went on to have an eigth-year affair) he complained that he found the artistic atmosphere stifling. He didn’t enjoy the culture in Rome either. The operas of Donizetti and Verdi were distinctly not to his taste. He was often depressed and unable to compose. He was, however, inspired by Franz Liszt, whose command of the keyboard he found admirable.

In June 1885, he wrote of his desire to follow his own way, saying,

I am sure the Institute would not approve, for, naturally it regards the path which it ordains as the only right one. But there is no help for it! I am too enamoured of my freedom, too fond of my own ideas.

It was Debussy who can to some extent be attributed with the development of modern music in the United States in the early twentieth century. American music critics showed mixed reactions to the composer’s highly original harmonic language and style, but his modernistic musical language and symbolist ideals soon evoked enthusiasm. In the early decades of the century, Debussy’s orchestral music was championed more than that of any other contemporary composer by the symphony orchestras of Boston, Chicago, and New York. His work is also thought to have influenced American jazz long after his death.

Debussy died of rectal cancer at home in Paris home at the age of just 55. His death occurred in the midst of the aerial and artillery bombardment of Paris during the German Spring Offensive of World War I.

His funeral procession passed through deserted streets to Père Lachaise Cemetery as the German guns bombarded the city. The military situation in France was grave, and the public funeral he would otherwise have received, with its pomp and ceremonious graveside orations, was impossible. The following year, his body was reinterred in the small Passy Cemetery  behind the Trocadéro, fulfilling his wish to rest “among the trees and the birds”.

Further Reading:

Debussy: The first ‘modern’ composer (a New York Times article by Pianist Stephen Hough

Five pop-ish musicians who owe a debt to Debussy 

Debussy’s influence on jazz

And check out our MWC ‘Debussy’ Spotify playlists:

Debussy’s Piano Music

Debussy’s Orchestral Music

Aiming High with the Opera North Orchestra Academy

Acclaimed for the high quality of its operatic performances, Opera North also boasts one of the country’s finest orchestras. The Orchestra of Opera North plays at each of the Company’s operas and regularly performs at concerts in the region. An important, and enjoyable, additional strand of its work however, is ensuring that the next generation of young musicians are given valuable support, guidance and inspiration as they build on their playing expertise.

This month, the team at Opera North share their vision with MWC…

Opera North Orchestra Academy is the latest in a series of Opera North Education initiatives. It is an orchestral training programme for outstanding instrumentalists aged 14-19 years and studying at Grade 7 or above. During a week-long residential course in Leeds, which will take place between Tuesday 28 August and Saturday 1 September 2018, participants will be encouraged to take their playing and performance skills to the next level, whilst also getting the chance to meet like-minded young people and forge some life-long friendships along the way.

Throughout the week, the Academy musicians will rehearse exciting orchestral repertoire alongside the full Orchestra of Opera North and benefit from sectional coaching with the orchestra’s players in a bid to develop excellence in ensemble skills and orchestral performance. Guided by the players from the Orchestra of Opera North, the Academy musicians will also be given the opportunity to rehearse and perform chamber music, enhancing their overall music-making experience.

This video gives some idea of the community-centric focus held by Opera North. Here, the musicians of the orchestra create a surprise performance for shoppers in Leeds…

The Academy residential will culminate in a public concert under the baton of an internationally-renowned conductor, giving the Academy players a glimpse into what it takes to stage a professional orchestral performance and the excitement of the event itself. Subsequently, the participants will be invited to take part in ‘keeping in touch’ weekends during the October and February half terms and to join collaborative projects as part of the Opera North Youth Company.

Opera North’s Education Director, Jacqui Cameron, explains the idea behind the project:

The Orchestra Academy Summer Residency week aims to give everyone who takes part a valuable insight into working and rehearsing with a professional orchestra in an exciting and supportive environment. We decided to make entry by audition only to ensure that all participants are at the best stage in their playing to take advantage of this opportunity and for us to tailor the learning precisely to their needs.

It’s perfect for those who are already members of their local youth orchestra, as well as for students looking for an immersive musical experience during the summer. We hope that, having been given this glimpse of what it could be like, it will encourage many talented young players to consider pursuing a career in music with all the rewards that can bring.

The Company is well aware that some young people can be deterred by the idea of an audition so the process will be made as fun and friendly as possible to try and keep nerves to a minimum. The audition day will be split into two parts with an informal workshop in the morning where the young musicians will play some orchestral excerpts and learn about ensemble playing, followed by an opportunity to impress in the afternoon. The latter will be with the same players from the Orchestra of Opera North who have worked with the young people in the morning, so the auditionees will be playing their prepared solos in front of a friendly face. Whether successful or not, everyone will benefit from feedback on their playing and will hopefully leave the audition day having found it a positive learning experience.

The Orchestra Academy joins Opera North’s acclaimed portfolio of youth ensembles for both young instrumentalists and singers of all ages and abilities, including Opera North Junior Strings, Opera North Children’s Chorus, Opera North Young Voices and Opera North Youth Chorus. The Company also runs an open-access Orchestra Camp in the summer for which there is no need to audition.

More information and applications (by Monday 9 April) for the Opera North Orchestra Academy can be made at https://www.operanorth.co.uk/opera-north-orchestra-academy. Auditions will be held in Leeds on Saturday 21 April.”

 

 

 


If you would like to speak to the Music Workshop Company about booking a tailor-made workshop, or would like to contribute your project to our guest blog, contact us to find out more:

The MWC Playlists – Listening Resources for You

Listening to music is beneficial for many reasons. It can be a relaxing pastime in itself, inspiring, soothing and uplifting, or it can be a focused learning activity that has many positive influences on social and academic development. The benefits of music have been widely reported for years, marketed by companies selling the concept that a baby who listens to Mozart will grow up to be more intelligent. There’s some truth in behind this belief: Research indicates that music lessons change the course of brain development and are likely to influence children’s success in other, non-musical tasks (read our guest blog from Dawn Rose to find out more).

Last term MWC launched our new Spotify playlists. We will be adding more throughout the year but wanted to introduce you to some of the new listening resources that we have recently shared and offer you the chance to contribute ideas and requests.

As discussed in our blog, A Focus on Listening, there is still debate as to whether young people should be exposed to full symphonies, suites or operas.

But for our playlists we have put together a series of short pieces or movements of larger works to create selections of music on specific themes, or to showcase the work of particular composers and artists.

The idea behind all of our MWC resources is to make teachers’ lives easier. While some music teachers’ knowledge is encyclopaedic, covering a range of genres and styles, others come to take on responsibility for music in a school based purely on enthusiasm or having learnt an instrument when they were younger.

All of MWC’s free resources aim to support novices and experts alike. Check out our free online resources on our website to see the full range.

Our playlists have been developed to help in a range of ways. Perhaps some of these suggestions might inspire you:

  1. Play music as students enter and leave assembly or another school gatherings. This gives them something to focus on, discourages talking and can be used as a starting point for assembly topics or classroom activities
  2. Use music listening as a starting point for a number of subjects, particularly for Early Years and Primary children, for example:
  • Maths – counting beats in a bar
  • Literacy – using music as the inspiration for writing a story,
  • Nature – exploring how composers have characterised animals, birds and weather through music
  • Geography – listen to music from around the world
  • History – make a timeline of music influenced by historic events, or compare how music styles fit with historic culture, fashion and politics
  • Science – looking at the phenomena of sound and acoustics
  • Social skills – discovering how making a simple piece of music together requires teamwork and empathy
  1. Playlists can also be useful when the children arrive or leave for the school day. The MWC team are great believers in “send them out singing!”

The Playlists

Our most recent listening selection is based on the seasons of the year, a topic that has inspired composers for centuries. One of the most famous depictions of the changing weathers is Vivaldi’s Four Seasons written in the 1720s. Vivaldi’s work is a series of four violin concerti, representing Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, each of which is preceded by a sonnet describing the piece. This is thought to be one of the first examples of “programme music” – music that has a narrative.

The playlist takes us through the year, beginning with the popular Largo from Winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. The sonnet preceding the movement is:

Passar al foco i di quieti e contenti
Mentre la pioggia fuor bagna ben cento.

Our favourite translation of this is:

To rest contentedly beside the hearth, while those outside are drenched by pouring rain.

We move on to Spring as portrayed by Leroy Anderson, Delius, Coates, Vivaldi and Piazzolla.

Summer is represented by works by Gershwin, Coates and Autumn by Delius and Grieg.

The Seasons Playlist – https://open.spotify.com/user/mariamwc/playlist/6FStRJ6u06zfSCbI3dsiAG

In anticipation of our forthcoming February blog about Welsh music, we have put together a playlist of traditional Welsh songs to help you celebrate St David’s Day on 1st March. Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus!

Welsh Traditional Songs – https://open.spotify.com/user/mariamwc/playlist/6kH5uBKNh84AsmLGqHPdLI

Our March blog will celebrate Debussy, commemorating 100 years since his death. We’ve put together two Debussy playlists, one showcasing his orchestral music, and the other featuring his piano music. Debussy is one of the composers most associated with Impressionist music and his work has been extremely influential.

Debussy Orchestral Music – https://open.spotify.com/user/mariamwc/playlist/6nLvshf8FJpAXYvlKXRlHz

Debussy Piano Music – https://open.spotify.com/user/mariamwc/playlist/6URpyG6ZqZLmI8fMQwFR8P

Check out these and other playlists on our website

If you would like a playlist on a particular theme or genre, email your request to Maria at music-workshop.co.uk…

 

 

%d bloggers like this: